PEABODY – As a teacher and a rebbetzin, Raizel Schusterman has often found herself on the listening end during her more than two decades co-leading Chabad communities. During that time she’s been a confidant to family, friends and congregants who have turned to her for guidance with life’s ups and downs.
Now, after earning a professional certificate in positive psychology, Schusterman has launched a new venture, A Positive Coach, a private counseling service that formalizes her role as a guide and counselor.
For some 17 years, Schusterman, who recently turned 41, and her husband, Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman, have directed the Alevy Family Chabad in Peabody for 17 years, where they are raising their seven children who range in age from 3 to 19. Before settling on the North Shore, the couple led a Chabad community in Marina Del Rey, California.
As a rebbetzin, people have opened up to Schusterman about marital problems, struggles with faith and God, and basic life challenges. She has cherished helping others overcome personal hurdles.
“You learn a lot on the job,” she said on a recent afternoon.
Over the years, many people have told Schusterman that her skills, patience and spot-on advice make her a natural as a coach and counselor, a description she said fits comfortably with her personality and approach to life.
“I’m a very upbeat, positive person. I’m not quiet, not an introvert,” she acknowledged. “I kept thinking I’d like to take this a step further.”
While she considered becoming a social worker, Schusterman instead was attracted to positive psychology, an emerging field gaining recognition that is based on the science of happiness.
Last November, after a year of intensive study, Schusterman successfully completed the requirements for a certificate in applied psychology through the New York-based Flourishing Center.
“I can help guide people to find more peace of mind, develop healthier lifestyles, and ultimately thrive in a world that often feels negative and out of control,” she states on her website.
Traditional psychology is often focused on clinical mental health conditions and with what is wrong, Schusterman observed. While there is a role for that for many people, Schusterman said that as a positive psychology coach, she helps clients explore “what is going right?” and develop steps to move forward.
As part of her practice, Schusterman is producing short motivational videos posted on the Facebook page of A Positive Coach, offering accessible “tips and tools to enhance your life.”
Positive psychology “jibes very well” with the Jewish values and teachings of Chasidism and Kabbalah that are the foundation of Schusterman’s life, she said. She relates to positive psychology through a Jewish lens, she noted. One of 10 children, she grew up in a Chabad family in Morristown, N.J., where serving God was about joy.
But Schusterman is quick to point out that her work as a positive coach is not religious. “We are not talking about God or faith.”
She would never presume to delve into a client’s religious practices or beliefs unless she knows that Jewish teachings hold meaning for that client.
Last fall, Schusterman offered a workshop for women, The Joy Factory, that drew on positive psychology as well as teachings from the Torah.
Schusterman excels at relating to people from all walks of life, according to Estee Dorfman, who first met Schusterman at a Jewish social event. While Dorfman was raised in a traditional Conservative Jewish family in West Peabody, she found the Schusterman-led Chabad community to be comfortable, especially because of the couple’s warmth and openness.
Over many years, Dorfman has been impressed with Schusterman’s keen listening skills and her ability to offer guidance without being judgmental.
Dorfman turned to Schusterman as she went through her divorce and mourned the loss of her mother. “She didn’t have all the answers, but she listens,” Dorfman said.
Schusterman is looking forward to sharing the tools and wisdom of positive psychology through one-on-one counseling and in group workshops, she said.
Helping others gives meaning and purpose to her life, Schusterman said. “The greatest gift is to give to others.”
For more information, visit apositivecoach.com.